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Boeing backs biofuel boffinry

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Boeing and the CSIRO have signed an agreement to look at whether Australia’s far north is a good place to grow biofuel feedstocks.

While biofuels have been certified for aviation use, Boeing explains, scaling up production is a challenge (for example, biofuel critics blame ethanol subisidies for driving up food prices in countries like Mexico).

The new agreement follows on from a report Boeing and the CSIRO prepared last year, which suggested that a local aviation biofuel industry could cut $AU2 billion from the country’s aviation fuel imports.

The CSIRO team, led by Dr Deborah O’Connell, will now start working on identifying and trialling fuel sources that balance existing land uses with biofuel feedstock growth.

Such sources could include grasses and short-rotation trees, both of which can coexist with the grazing and cropping activities that dominate in regional Queensland. The project will then assess the technologies needed to convert the feedstocks into jet fuels, and will seek to match production and technologies to the local infrastructure.

Unlike many fuel applications, CSIRO believes there is sufficient biomass now available for Australia’s and New Zealand’s aviation to rely completely on biofuels by 2050, which would avoid the problem of diverting land away from food production.

However, exploiting the available biomass depends on finding efficient ways to refine fuels from the abundant but woody lignocellulose.

Boeing’s announcement is here, and the CSIRO Flight Path to Sustainable Aviation document is here. ®

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